The local daily newspaper made a sobering announcement last weekend. Beginning Dec. 17, 2012, access to articles on the paper’s website will cost readers nearly $10 a month. This isn’t a surprising announcement. Before the creation of the Internet, everyone had to either pay for the newspaper to be delivered at home, pick up a copy at a newsstand or newspaper box, or read a free communal copy at the local cafe or library. Now the Internet readers – the fastest growing audience for most newspapers – will have to pay or go away.
Newspapers have to find a way to make money from the growing online audience, and it’s easy to debate whether your local paper or the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or any other paper that has set up a paywall is implementing the right policies to attract paying customers, but regardless of this debate, papers are changing or dying.
Why does this matter for you? If you have a story to tell or products to sell, and you rely on coverage in the local newspaper to create awareness for your story or products, it is very likely that the potential audience for your message will drastically drop when your local newspaper turns off free access to its content on the Internet. Those who opt to pay for online access to news and advertising that they are used to getting for free, and those who follow the industry will soon see how these paywall experiments work. But more importantly for you and your business, how will you work around the likelihood of a smaller readership if you count on newspaper readers to build buzz for your products and services?
The need for an effective communication and marketing strategy that uses multiple channels to get your story in front of readers and potential customers is growing more obvious every day. And remember – many people still want to stay informed about their community and the stories within their community. It’s just that the delivery methods for that news are more diverse than they were in the 1950s and 1960s, before the Internet grew into such a resource and distraction.